New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook by Joel R. Brandes is available online in the print edition at the Bookbaby Bookstore and other bookstores. It is now available in Kindle ebook editions and epub ebook editions in our website bookstore. It is also available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads.

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook was written for both the attorney who has never tried a matrimonial action and for the experienced litigator. It is a “how to” book for lawyers. This 836 page handbook focuses on the procedural and substantive law, as well as the law of evidence, that an attorney must have at his or her fingertips when trying a matrimonial action. It is intended to be an aid for preparing for a trial and as a reference for the procedure in offering and objecting to evidence during a trial. The handbook deals extensively with the testimonial and documentary evidence necessary to meet the burden of proof. There are thousands of suggested questions for the examination of witnesses at trial to establish each cause of action and requests for ancillary relief, as well as for the cross-examination of difficult witnesses. Table of Contents

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

O.A. v D.B., Slip Copy, 2016 WL 3748779 (Table), 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 51089(U) (Fam. Ct.,2016) [Norway] [New York Family Court][Petition Denied]

In O.A. v D.B., Slip Copy, 2016 WL 3748779 (Table), 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 51089(U) (Fam. Ct.,2016) Petitioner Father, O.A., a Norwegian citizen, filed a petition in Family  Court for the return of his daughters, D.A.P. and D.P. to Norway. The petition was brought pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1343 UNTS 89, TIAS No. 11, 670, 1343 [1980]), and its domestic implementing legislation, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 42 USC §§ 11601. Respondent mother, D.B., an American citizen, opposed the petition and argued that a return of the family to Norway will subject the subject children to a grave risk of harm because of the repeated domestic violence petitioner inflicted upon respondent. Respondent also alleged that some of the said domestic violence incidents occurred in the presence of the eldest subject child. The Court held a hearing and found that the petitioner had established, by a preponderance of the evidence, each required element under the Hague Convention. It also found that  respondent failed to establish that the subject children would be subjected to a grave risk of harm, psychologically or physically, if they return to Norway and granted the petition.


        It appears to us that the Family Court, a court of limited jurisdiction, lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the petition. 

A petition for the return of a child commencing a civil action for the return of a child must be filed "in any court which has jurisdiction of such action." 22 U.S.C. § 9003 (b), formerly cited as 42 USC § 11603 (b). The New York State Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear these proceedings. N.Y. Const, art VI, § 7[a].  On the other hand, the Family Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, whose jurisdiction is proscribed by Article VI, § 13 of the New York State Constitution. It has not been conferred with jurisdiction under  Article VI, § 13 of the New York state constitution to determine such cases. 

A court hearing a Hague Convention proceeding must have jurisdiction of the action and must be authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed. 22 U.S.C. § 9003 (b), formerly cited as 42 USC § 11603 (b). Family Court is not authorized to exercise such jurisdiction. While 22 U.S.C. § 9003, formerly cited as 42 USC § 11603, grants original  jurisdiction of these proceedings to State and federal district courts, it does not grant jurisdiction to state courts of limited jurisdiction, such as the family court and surrogates court, nor does it purport to do so. Domestic Relations Law §77-a, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, which provides that a “court of this state may enforce an order for the return of the child made under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction as if it were a child custody determination”, does not authorize the commencement of a civil action for the return of a child.

It appears that the Family Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear Hague Convention cases. This has been confirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which has held that " [t]he phrase “in any court which has jurisdiction of such action,” 42 U.S.C. § 11603(b), underscores that while § 11603(a) confers jurisdiction in a particular federal forum (i.e., in United States district courts), it does not confer jurisdiction in particular state courts (e.g., a family-law court; a juvenile court; or a court of general jurisdiction); the appropriate state forum for an action under the Hague Convention is an issue of state law. The court in which the petition is filed must also be “authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed.”  Ozaltin v. Ozaltin, 708 F.3d 355, 360 (2d Cir. 2013). See footnote 25 

Neumann v Neumann, 2015 WL 3661907 (E.D. Michigan, 2016) [Mexico] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Stay Pending Appeal Denied]

In Neumann v Neumann, 2015 WL 3661907 (E.D. Michigan, 2016) on May 17, 2016, the district court granted the petition for return in part and ordered Respondent Julie Neumann to return two of the three minor children, JSN and MKN, to Mexico by June 30, 2016.  Julie filed a motion to stay the Court’s return order pending appeal. The Court applied the four traditional stay factors which guide the Court’s analysis: “(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that [s]he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.” Chafin v. Chafin, 133 S. Ct. 1017, 1027 (2013). The Court denied Julie’s motion, concluding that none of the four factors relevant to the appropriateness of a stay weighed in favor of issuing one here.

Hernandez v Cardoso, 2016 WL 3742858 (N.D. Ill, 2016) [Mexico] [Grave Risk of Harm] [Petition denied]

In Hernandez v Cardoso, 2016 WL 3742858 (N.D. Ill, 2016) Petitioner John Hernandez petitioned for the return of his son, AE, to Mexico. It was undisputed that Petitioner established a prima facie case. The petition was denied because there was a grave risk that return of AE to Mexico would expose him to physical or psychological harm. During the hearing, both Hernandez and Cardoso testified that they both used physical discipline on the children, but the parties dispute whose discipline was more forceful. Cardoso testified that Hernandez would hit her in front of the children “a lot” and that he wanted the children to watch him hit her. She would ask him to let the children leave the room when he was hitting her, and he would say “I want the children here. I don’t want them to go.” Cardoso testified to an incident where Hernandez slapped, kicked, and hit her with a wooden board in front of their daughter. When she tried to get away, Hernandez broke through a window, dragged her by her hair, and then raped her.  She testified that he would “always do that [rape her] when he would hit” her because “[t]o him it was like to make me happy.” The Court observed that under the law of this circuit, credible testimony of spousal abuse, carried out in the presence of the child at issue, supports a finding that return of the child to the abuser poses a grave risk of at least psychological harm. Khan v. Fatima, 680 F.3d 781, 786 (7th Cir. 2012). Although AE’s verbal expression about the effect of witnessing Hernandez hit Cardoso was limited (he felt “sad”), the Court observed a significant change in demeanor when AE discussed Hernandez, the domestic violence, and the possibility of returning to Hernandez’s custody. The Seventh Circuit has rejected the notion that courts should consider whether the petitioner’s country of residence can adequately protect the child. Khan, 680 F.3d at 788. “If handing over custody of a child to an abusive parent creates a grave risk of harm to the child, in the sense that the parent may with some nonnegligible probability injure the child, the child should not be handed over, however severely the law of the parent’s country might punish such behavior.” Van De Sande v. Van De Sande, 431 F.3d 567, 571 (7th Cir. 2005). Even where the petitioning parent has not seriously physically injured the child in the past, a “propensity for violence,” coupled with “the grotesque disregard” for child welfare demonstrated by committing spousal battery in the presence of children, indicates a risk that the petitioning parent will one day “lose control and inflict actual physical injury” upon the child. Van De Sande, 431 F.3d at 570.

Gonzalez v Pena, 2016 WL 3654283 (D. Az, 2016) [Mexico] [Grave Risk of Harm] [Petition Denied]

In Gonzalez v Pena, 2016 WL 3654283 (D. Az, 2016) Gonzalez was a Mexican citizen residing in Mexico. Pena was a Mexican citizen residing in Scottsdale, Arizona. The parties were the parents of two Children: J.P., born in 2007, and A.P., born in 2005 in Scottsdale. In 2012 Gonzalez moved to Nayarit, Mexico with the Children. Pena continued to reside in Scottsdale and visited the Children in Mexico. There were no court orders dictating the parties' parenting time. On June 7, 2015, Gonzalez agreed that the Children could visit Pena in Scottsdale. The parties agreed that Pena would return the Children to Mexico by August 6, 2015.. Approximately one week before the Children were to be returned to Mexico, A.P. informed Pena that she had been sexually abused by Gonzalez's live-in boyfriend. As a result, Pena decided to not allow the Children to return to Mexico.  The district court found that Gonzalez established a prima facie case for return. Although Pena's retention was wrongful, the Court found he had met his burden of showing that returning the Children to Mexico presents a “grave risk” or would be an “intolerable situation” and denied the petition.  Sexual abuse most  constitutes a ‘grave risk’ of physical or psychological harm.” Ortiz v. Martinez, 789 F.3d 722, 728 (7th Cir. 2015). The evidence clearly and convincingly established that Gonzalez's live in boyfriend sexually abused A.P. at least once. Moreover, Gonzalez's stated that she did not believe any abuse could have occurred because she had the only key to the bedroom. At one point, Gonzalez stated that she believed only “touching” had occurred, “not sexual abuse.” And she stated that she kicked her boyfriend out of the house not because she believed any abuse had occurred, but because she wanted the “situation to clarify.” Notably, not once during her testimony did Gonzalez state that she would take any steps to protect the Children from abuse if they returned to Mexico. The evidence also demonstrated that the Children had already suffered psychologically from the abuse. A.P. has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and J.P. had been experiencing anger issues with the incident. A.P. had experienced some depression, and experiences trouble sleeping and nightmares. The Court found separating the Children would significantly aggravate their emotional state.